Is eating insects the sustainable future of food?

For many of us, particularly in the West, the idea of eating insects might not have appealed or even occurred to us.  Shows like I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, aim to make people feel squeamish at the prospect of eating insects and so some of us can feel put off.

It doesn’t have to be this way! We spoke to the founders of food startup BUG, who aim to make insect-based meal kits the norm, and help their customers to reduce their carbon footprint in the process.

5 minutes to read

Why eating insects is a sustainable alternative to meat

BUG founders, Aaron and Leo came together by chance after individually developing a passion for eating insects. Their shared interest became a friendship, which has led to a business model that they hope will change the food industry for the better.

But why do they believe eating insects is the future of food, and how do they plan to bring edible insects to the masses?

Let’s start with some facts about eating insects vs meat-based diets:

BUG’s objective is to reduce the overall consumption of traditional meat. Aaron and Leo’s vision is for a world where insect-based meals and ingredients are available wherever meat is an option. 

Did you know?

  • Eating insects is a  sustainable alternative that can be eaten alongside or replace meat altogether.
  • Reducing meat consumption results in a reduction of both emissions and pesticides. This is because insects can eat all the things humans don’t eat – like apple cores and potato peelings. So we don’t need to grow as much food, to feed our food.
  • It takes 1 litre of water to sustain a 1 kg equivalent of edible insects. This is in contrast to the 22,000 litres required to produce 1 kg of beef, and 2,300 litres to produce 1 kg of  chicken meat.
  • 100 g of crickets contains 69 g of protein. That’s over three times more than the equivalent amount of both chicken and beef, at 19.5 g and 19.4 g respectively.
  • There are already more than 2 billion people eating insects in 80 countries. So it’s not as unusual as you might think!

 

For more facts about why insects are such a nutritional and environmental powerhouse, check out this page on the BUG website.

The story of BUG

Having experienced eating insects whilst growing up across multiple countries in Asia and other areas of the world, BUG co-founder Leo developed an early interest in edible insect cuisine. However, it wasn’t until he learned about the benefits of insects farming and nutrition that he became passionate about them as a solution to global climate change and health.

In contrast, Aaron grew up in the UK, and was always interested in studying insects (of the alive variety!) from a very young age, scrambling around in the garden inspecting everything he could find. He went into a career researching a wide range of insects for institutions such as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and, like Leo, became passionate about edible insects after discovering their potential to create a positive impact on our planet. 

BUG founders Leo and Aaron wearing a blue and pink shirt respectively, on a pink and blue diagonal background

BUG founders Leo (left) and Aaron (right)

Although they became interested in eating insects via two very different routes, Aaron and Leo both embarked on individual journeys to discover the health, nutritional and environmental benefits of incorporating insects into their diet. They wanted to focus on reducing meat consumption, to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and they both believed that insects could play an important part.

“BUG was founded back in 2017” explains Aaron, “but it had no clear direction or inclination to become the company it is today. Leo and I met at the end of 2018 after Leo started searching for other people in the UK that were interested in edible insects. At the time I was making edible insect recipes and burgers from my home in Norwich and posting them on social media. We scheduled a date to meet (it was much like dating at the start), went out for a meal to discuss our mutual interest, and realised that we had very similar passions and views on eating insects. Both of us really care about creating a positive impact on the planet, focusing on the nutrition of our food and experimenting with new and exciting ingredients and recipes.”

“This is what really brought us together and got us excited by creating content from Leo’s parents’ garage in the early days,” Aaron continues “trying to help educate others on what we were doing and how they too could integrate insects into their diet. It wasn’t until later 2019 or early 2020 that we actually came up with the idea for our initial product – the BUG box.”

From there, they’ve run a successful crowdfunding campaign and have new products in development for launch in Autumn 2021, to take their business, and eating insects, to the next level.

Not just bags of insects

Although it’s not difficult to buy edible insects, it’s a lot harder to convince people who haven’t considered eating them before to eat a bag of grasshoppers with no prior knowledge.

Aaron and Leo set out to make things that were immediately recognisable as meals, and normalise insect-eating by removing the novelty value. People would want to buy their products to enjoy them, not to eat as a dare or to shock.

They did not want to create products or develop recipes that were gimmicky or maximised the squeamish reaction so they set out to recreate things people are familiar with.

Making eating insects

Recipes range from burgers to risottos, muffins to puddings along with the familiar, yet more adventurous, granolas and salads. Their recipe kits give you the ingredients and confidence you need to create delicious bug-based recipes at home.

They can be stored before cooking for up to 6 months, are packed with nutritional value and are available as a subscription service or one-off delivery.

 

What the Ailuna team thinks about eating insects

Helene

I havent tried bugs but would like to.

What I miss the most about meat is the chewiness; maybe insects can give me that.

Justina

If the taste was good, I would go for it.

What we do have tons of on our planet is insects...so I wouldn't feel that bad eating insect dishes.

Lars

I wouldn't mind eating insects - as long as I don't know I'm eating insects!

I think there is a first for everything - and if the taste is great, then why not?

 

Learn more about eating insects

BUG meal kits will be launching very soon, so if you’d like to be the first to find out when they are available, head to the BUG website to sign up for alerts.

Three BUG edible insects meals kits in a row: crickets with italian herbs, crickets with ginger, sesame and teriyaki and buffalo worms with parsley and harissa

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